Sepilok in Sabah, versus Semenggoh in Sarawak
Both the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak offer the chance to see to Borneo’s most famous residents, the Orangutans. But which is the best one to visit? Sepilok is certainly the more established of the two orangutan rehabilitation centres in Malaysian Borneo. It has several accommodation options within easy reach of the centre and caters for mass tourism on all levels, including a visitors information centre, a café and well maintained railings and walkways leading up to the viewing area overlooking the orangutan feeding platform.
The entry price and extra add-ons reflect the fact that they are cater very well for the large numbers of tourists, both independent travellers and package tourists from all over the world, with an entry fee of 30 Ringgit and a fee for bringing your own camera into the centre of 10 Ringgit.
At both centres, there are two daily feeding times when the orang-tans are coaxed out of the forest to be fed by volunteers and staff from the centre. Either time of day, there is a reasonable likelihood of seeing Orangutans at Sepilok, perhaps even more so than at Semenggoh depending on whether or not it is fruiting season, although the morning session can sometimes feel quite over-crowded with day trippers from Sandakan.
Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Sarawak
This relatively undeveloped tourist attraction is situated about half an hour outside of the main city in Sarawak, Kuching, just like its Sabah counterpart. The minimal entry fee of 3 ringgit reflects the fact that this centre caters for travellers seeking a more ‘natural’ setting for their orangutan experience and is not necessarily in the money-making business. Although neither centre provides the chance to see these amazing creatures entirely in the wild, (they both rescue either adult animals from the illegal wildlife trade or orphaned babies that would not survive unless they were rehabilitated,) Semenggoh certainly has a much less touristy feel. A handful of less than fifty visitors stood shoulder to shoulder, watching and waiting for a sighting, compared to several hundred crowded onto the viewing platform at Sepilok.
Sabah or Sarawak?
The main deciding factor for this question may be whether the rest of the planned trip is going to be primarily based in Sabah or Sarawak. There are many attractions to see in both Malaysian states, such as Mount Kinabalu and the similarly named city, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, or the feline attractions of Cat City, Kuching. Sabah has tea gardens; Sarawak has the charming, colonial waterfront city of Kuching.
Traditional Tribal Longhouses can be visited in both states, as can a variety of natural attractions such as hot springs, caves and undisturbed rainforest. One thing is certain, a trip to see the orangutans at either rehabilitation centre is a must-see on any South East Asian itinerary and definitely should not be missed.